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More On The Ethanol Fuel Hoax

Yesterday, I posted on the shortcomings of ethanol. Today, I'll post more on the very serious shortcomings of ethanol, and prove why it is certainly not the great claimed alternative fuel as claimed by some.

One serious drawback about ethanol is that agriculture experts such as David Pimental from Cornell University note that it would take 11 acres of farmland to grow enough corn to produce enough ethanol to power the average automobile for just one year, while the same amount of farmland could be used to feed seven people for one year by comparison. Diverting so much farmland into fuel produce really makes no ethical or moral sense.

A further problem is that it costs far more to produce one gallon of ethanol than one gallon of gas. A gallon of ethanol costs around $1.74 in total production costs to produce, a figure which is significantly higher than the average of about one dollar in total costs to produce one gallon of gasoline. Ethanol production doesn't make financial sense. Further ethanol is expensive to produce that fossil fuels, and not ethanol fuels are used to power the production of corn into this fuel. The process involves just 8% usable material for fuel that must be separated from 92% water, which requires a complex and expensive three stage process to convert the corn into fuel.

A further problem is like all claimed miracle alternative fuels, ethanol takes far energy to produce than it actually yields. In fact 131,000 BTUs are required to produce just one gallon of ethanol so that will return no more than just 77,000 BTUs of energy. This is a significant loss of energy and also proves that ethanol is simply not a cost or energy efficient form of fuel.

A further problem is that because corn produces so little fuel power because only 8% of the product must be separated from 92% water to produce alcohol, it would take 97% of the area mass of the entire U.S. to produce enough ethanol to power every motor vehicle in the entire nation.

Ethanol also gets poorer gas mileage than gasoline, so it does nothing to increase fuel economy either.

Yet strangely there are those back in Washington than continue to promote this great fuel hoax, including the current Secretary Of Agriculture. All of this only illustrates the continued strength of the corporate agriculture lobby.

Ethanol is not good for the health of automobiles and can cause fuel system or carburetor damages, and ethanol tends to be poor for performance in motorcycles and other motor vehicles.

Another problem is that ethanol really diverts serious attention away from the development of more serious forms of alternative energy powered cars or advanced technology such as extreme hybrids or even fuel cell powered vehicles.

Unfortunately just like so many other miracles, it turns out that ethanol is yet just another big hoax.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (6)


The video I cited at your prior post cited Pimentel by name. Who'da'thunk?

I appreciate your opinion and I won't belabor your repentence when it comes. Fuel cell technology is a transoceanic disaster waiting to happen. Plus all the heavy metals entailed in its eventual disposal!

The way I see it: think Brazil. The last of the Portuguese (Portugal bows to the Brazilian Portuguese tongue now). No friends except for their own SUSTAINABLE sugar-based (alcohol/ethanol) vegetable energy source. And less of the great Amazon is cultivatable than the old homestead sections of the US, nevermind east of the Mississippi River, which is considerable.

Anyway, good post. If I seem contrary, take it as a compliment.

Paul Hooson:

BryanD, an even worse environmental disaster for alternative powered cars would have been the 1958 Ford Nucleon, which was powered by an on-board nuclear reactor. Imagine having a car accident on the street and not being able to use the street for 50 years until the worse of the nuclear contamination half-life would have passed by. Or having the small problems of a little reactor meltdown, or a huge supply of nuclear fuel suitable for terrorists building dirty bombs, etc. Or what about so much nuclear waste. Thank God Ford never really built these cars.


What a nice long list of ethanol myths.

This study addresses many of them: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121647166/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

But I encourage you to look a bit further into ethanol.

For example, Pimental's line you use is quite popular, but is a lie. Or, rather, it leaves off half the story. The other side of the story is that those 11 acres of corn produce ethanol AND feed people. You see, ethanol plants produce more than ethanol. They produce livestock feed, too. And a lot of it.

Pimental and many others seem to forget that fact, and as a result their "math" is a bit off, including his estimates for the energy required to produce ethanol.

One can't look backwards when talking about these things, but too many people do. And in the process they ignore all the improvements in corn production and ethanol production in the last decade.

All fuels take more energy to make than they release. That's because fuels are stored energy, and at every state change or reaction, energy is lost. Imagine how much energy is lost from a tree from when it dies to when it is compressed into coal.


Ethanol and biofuels came about because of the push from liberals to stop using oil due to the pollution to the environment. They do burn cleaner than petroleum based products, but still require energy to be produced. See Roger's comment. At least ethanol and biofuels don't come from an exhaustible source. With proper crop management, corn and soybeans can be grown repeatedly until the sun quits producing light that provides them with photosynthesis. Start drilling now, and we can maybe avoid the crunch that will happen when OPEC decides they can screw us over again. I'm all for alternative energies, but not at 3 to 4 times the current cost. When those technologies are mature enough that I can buy a new hybrid car for what an internal cumbustion only car costs, and it performs as well, then I will. But until that time, I'm going to keep buying "standard" automobiles.


Hooson... I was just thinking you were pretty perceptive until I realized you actually THINK the Nucleon was a serious proposal rather than a PR gimmick.

Corn Ethanol/E85 is reality... truck bed reactors are fantasy.


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